Skip To Content

In 1983, Philip Glass completed his “Portrait Trilogy” (“Einstein on the Beach,” “Satyagraha”) with “Akhnaten,” a lyrical opera about the progenitor of one of the world’s oldest monotheistic systems of beliefs, Atenism. The U.S. premiere was sleekly minimal and decidedly arty. Three decades on, Glass sits atop the small pantheon of contemporary composers who enjoy popular success.

The Los Angeles Opera’s splashy new production of “Akhnaten,” a co-production with English National Opera, where I saw it earlier this year, shows how what was once considered an avant-garde novelty has entered the ranks of modern classics. Contemporary operas rarely get performed past their premieres, but “Akhnaten” has been seen in over 40 different productions over the past 33 years. Phelim McDermott’s colorful production was at times a bit too Cirque du Soleil for my taste (juggling played a crucial role), but it shows how thoroughly the opera-going public has embraced this three-hour-long minimalist masterpiece performed in dead languages including Biblical Hebrew and Akkadian.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.